Turning promise into action: Ethiopia improves in Social Progress

Over the past five years, Ethiopia has made significant improvements to quality of life. As the only country to climb out of the bottom tier of the Social Progress Index, Ethiopia’s Social Progress score has improved from 36.76/100 points in 2014 to 41.47/100 points in 2018. The country has been improving steadily over the years, and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s extensive and critical reforms are accelerating positive change. The prime minister has helped in ending the war with Eritrea, releasing political prisoners, relaxing media restrictions, and promoting more women to government positions than ever before.

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The data released in the 2018 global Index reflects these measures that have been enacted. After analyzing Ethiopia’s scores over the past five years, we see improvements across a wide variety of dimensions, components and indicators. The scores for Nutrition and Basic Medical Care have improved steadily. In 2014, Nutrition and Basic Medical Care scored 53.51 points. In 2018, these scores improved to 60.78 points. Prime Minister Ahmed desires to advance the quality of life through the slogan of “using ideas, not weapons,” in order to build a more sophisticated economy and opportunity for all. As the second most populated country in Africa, Ethiopia has come a long way since the famine and civil war which occurred more than thirty years ago. With over 70 different ethnic groups living in Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and President Sahle-Work Zewde (Ethiopia’s first female president) are working together to pass reforms that assist in educational improvement and promoting inclusive opportunity to create a prosperous future.


Ethiopia has seen a gradual improvement in the past five years. This progress has been accelerated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was elected in April 2018. In a short period of time, he has helped in creating rapid, pivotal reforms to the country’s infrastructure and the wellbeing of the Ethiopian people. Abiy Ahmed’s decision to promote more women to government positions has been welcomed, with human rights groups hoping that the new government will continue promoting initiatives to improve the lives of ordinary women. Abiy Ahmed has appointed 20 women to ministerial posts. Under the previous administration of Hailemariam Desalegn, this was drastically different, where only five women held ministerial posts. Complete gender equality still remains in the future for Ethiopia, however in the past five years, an increase in personal rights and opportunity can be seen through looking at the Social Progress Index.

From 2014 to 2018, the Personal Rights component increased by 4.54 points. Opportunity has also increased by 3.60 points. In 2014, 27% of women were married between the ages of 15 and 19, whereas the number declined to 23% in 2018. With more reforms to aid women across Ethiopia and improve access to education, the number is likely to continue to fall in 2019. Property rights for women have also increased slightly. With the prime minister’s new agenda, more gender representation and female empowerment will hopefully continue to be seen in coming years.

In the Foundations of Wellbeing dimension, there have been improvements in a range of indicators. Primary school enrollment has greatly increased, however there is still much left to improve in gender parity in secondary school enrollment. As for Environmental Quality, there has also been plenty of positive data. Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalents per GDP) were reduced by one-fourth. By reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Ethiopia is helping farmers improve their lives, as well as building a more sustainable environment. The country has set a goal of being carbon neutral by 2025. If this goes as planned, the country’s economy will be climate negative, meaning it will absorb more greenhouse gasses that it emits. The country will continue to cut emissions by adopting cleaner practices in agriculture, construction, transport and slowing deforestation.

Ethiopia’s score in the Access to Information and Communications component has changed the most drastically. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reopened and unblocked internet sites and media channels. According to the data, there has been a 12.68 increase of points (from 2014 to 2018) in Access to Information and Communications. Ethiopia scored 22.33 points in 2014, and this number has risen to 35.01 points in 2018. The significant improvement is the result of the elimination of repressive laws that previously censored access to information and communications. Independent media has grown, in addition to mobile telephone subscriptions. Five years ago, the previous Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn responded to ongoing anti-government protests with internet shutdowns and blocks on social media. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed restored access to internet and social media channels in the spring of 2018. Critical voices are now able to publish their opinions. During 2016 and 2017, these two years were characterized with chaos and unprecedented demonstrations for change in the government, and a protest for democratic reform. In the 2018 global Index data, 15.36% of the population are now internet users compared to only 2.90% in 2014.

Other significant improvements were seen in the Basic Human Needs dimension, specifically in the component of Nutrition and Medical Care. The 7.27 increase of Nutrition and Medical Care is largely due to an expansion of HIV treatment. Additionally, child mortality and infant mortality have also decreased because of better sanitation, nutrition, and vaccinations. Deaths from infectious diseases have fallen, as well as child stunting (prevalence of stunting in children younger than 5). Even though great strides have been made across many components and indicators, there is still a long way to go in Personal Safety which remains a notably serious issue. In the change over time data, there has been a 6.87 point decline in safety over the past five years.

As seen through extensive data from the Social Progress Index, Ethiopia has improved the quality of life for its people and country over the past five years. However, property rights, personal safety and gender equality still have a very long way to go. Ethiopia has faced myriad adversities and hardships: drought, corruption, civil unrest and political conflicts, leaving the country in a state of turmoil and unrest. However, under the new leadership of Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy and President Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia is overcoming challenges of its past, in hopes of carving a path filled with tolerance, inclusion, social wellbeing and freedom for its people.

Stay tuned for the 2019 global Index to see how Ethiopia and other countries around the world are making improvements to education, gender equality, healthcare, personal safety, environmental sustainability, and many other indicators.


ethiopiaEthiopia scorecard from the 2018 global Index



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